Using Adverbs

How, When, and Where

The letters
Adverbs are often formed by adding -ly to an adjective.

Quinn Dombrowski / Flickr / Creative Commons

 

Adverbs are content words that provide information about how, when, or where something happens. They are one of the ​eight parts of speech used to modify verbs. This means that adverbs can be used either to add more information to a sentence or change its meaning.

Adverbs can modify a verb in several ways, by providing information about:

  • How something is done: adverb of manner.
  • When something is done: adverb of time.
  • Where something is done: adverb of place.

Adverb of Manner

Adverbs of manner tell us how something is done. Adverbs of manner are usually placed at the end of a sentence or before the main verb:

Tom drives quickly.
She slowly opened the door.
Mary waited for him patiently.

Adverb of Time: When something is done

Adverbs of time tell us when / at what time something is done. Adverbs of time are usually placed at the end of a sentence. They can also be used at the beginning of a sentence followed by a comma.

The meeting is next week. 
Yesterday, we decided to take a walk.
I've already bought my tickets for the concert. 

Here are some of the most common adverbs of time: yet, already, yesterday, tomorrow, next week/month/year, last week/month/year, now, ago. These are used with other time expressions such as days of the week. 

Adverb of Place

Adverbs of place tell us where something is done. Adverbs of place are usually placed at the end of a sentence, but they can also follow the verb.

I decided to rest over there.
She'll wait for you in the room downstairs
Peter walked above me upstairs

Adverbs of place can be confused with prepositional phrases such as in the doorway, at the shop. Prepositional phrases tell us where something is, but adverbs of place can tell us where something occurs. 

Adverbs of Frequency

Adverbs of frequency tell us how often something is repeatedly done. They include: usually, sometimes, never, often, rarely, etc. Place adverbs of frequency directly before the main verb.

She rarely goes to parties.
I often read a newspaper.
He usually gets up at six o'clock.

Exceptions

  • Adverbs of frequency expressing infrequency are not used in the negative or question form.
  • Some adverbs of frequency are sometimes placed at the beginning of a sentence. The most common of include 'sometimes' and 'often'.

    Sometimes, I enjoy staying at home instead of going on vacation.
    Often, Peter will telephone his mother before he leaves for work.

  • Adverbs of frequency follow - come after - the verb 'to be'.

    He is sometimes late for work.
    I am often confused by computers.

Forming Adverbs from Adjectives

Rule: Adverbs are often formed by adding -ly to an adjective

Example: beautiful - beautifully, careful - carefully

Exceptions

  • Some adjectives don't change in the adverb form. The most important of these are: fast - fast, hard - hard
  • Good is probably the most important exception. The adverb form of 'good' is 'well'.

    He speaks English well.
    Tom plays tennis very well.

Rule: Adverbs can also modify an adjective.

In this case, the adverb is placed before the adjective.

She is extremely happy.
They are absolutely sure.

Exceptions

Do not use 'very' with adjectives that express an increased quality of a basic adjective

Example: good - fantastic

She is an absolutely fantastic piano player.
Mark is a very good public speaker. In fact, he is an absolutely amazing lecturer.